The ETX range
Preamble - When we first considered reviewing the entire ETX range one obvious barrier was the cost. Had we bought them brand new we would either have had to keep them or sell them on as second hand. Therefore the decision was taken to buy them second hand in the first place and to then resell them in the bargain section of AstroShop which we did, aside from the ETX-60 which we kept.
At the time of our review the ETX-80 was not readily available, and certainly not second hand. The ETX-80 is therefore notable by it's absence. Also notable by their absence is the 'premium' range the only differences being a fancy paint job and a few auto alignment features. People can make their own minds up as to whether it is worth paying an additional £100+ for those features.
As we now sell the ETX-90, ETX-105 and the ETX-125 scopes through our AstroShop we must declare an interest, however we have no particular loyalties to Meade and are not associated in any way to them or any of their distributors.
glance at the specifications reveals that the ETX series is/was split
into two distinct groups. The two small rich field refractors (ETX-60,
ETX70) with their fast, wide angle views and the much longer focal
design of the ETX-90,ETX-105 and ETX-125.
It is not hard to see why Meade discontinued the ETX-60 being of smaller aperture than the ETX-70 but probably no cheaper to produce. The price difference on the marketplace was never sufficient to attract people towards the ETX-60. A pity really as in my opinion Meade discontinued the better of the two scopes. I generally found the views through the ETX-60 more pleasing than through the ETX-70.
I suspect with the introduction of the ETX-80, also a fast rich field refractor, that it is the end of the road for the ETX-70!!
The basic design of the mount on all five scopes is pretty much the same, and all have the same basic flaw that really should have been sorted out at the design stage. Namely, if you loosen the declination axis the front of the scope can come crashing down into the base of the mount - not something you wish to repeat too often having paid a small fortune for a telescope. Even the addition of a small foam pad to the base would lesson the blow and risk of damage when the inevitable does happen! Surely Meade could have designed in some sort of damping mechanism to overcome this?
Another failing is that the focus knob becomes pretty much inaccessible when the scope is looking straight up with respect to its base, a flexible focuser as shown in the picture can help. It is also hard to see how you are meant to attach any accessories to the rear of the scope when it is in this position... Using the scope in equatorial mode with the field tripod gets around the problem but doesn't help if you wish to use it as a stand alone table top scope.
On the subject of focusing I like the fine control that the mechanism allows on all five scopes... however ALL the Maksutov-Cassegrain designs in the range display some image shift when tweaking the focus knob back and forth. In my opinion this was more noticeable than on comparable Sky Watcher and Orion OTAs I have tried. In fact the Orion Apex 102 reviewed elsewhere on this site performed better in this respect.
Having got the gripes out the way - I would recommend that anyone purchasing an ETX takes to time to learn the setup and basic alignment procedures for the mount, it makes all the difference when it comes to astronomical use. It really isn't that tricky and once setup the mount tracked remarkably well in all five scopes that I tried - Overall very impressed.
A note at this point, the random grinding and grating noise is normal - I hesitate to say that they are meant to sound like that but they all do and after a while it becomes quite reassuring!
Optically - All five scopes perform superbly as terrestrial scopes, the two refractors giving a wide field of view and a crystal clear image; the three Maksutov-Cassegrain scopes giving a much narrower view but equally clear and at higher magnification. The view through the ETX-125 in particular is superb.
As I mentioned earlier I preferred the images of the ETX-60 to that of the ETX-70, but both scopes performed well as 'rich field' scopes which of course is what they were designed for. Star testing produced good results, but this was only a very cursory check for obvious errors. Both scopes gave pleasing views of the Moon and with correct filtering the ETX-60 gave quite respectable white light views of the Sun. With both scopes Jupiter and Saturn were a little disappointing - neither scope can hold a candle to the TeleVue Pronto, which on face value has a similar spec.
The three Maksutov-Cassegrain scopes in the series are an altogether different kettle of fish. With a low power eyepiece they still perform well when scanning the Milky Way and M44 is pretty impressive. On the Moon all give wonderful views that will take your breath away if you have never seen the Moon through a decent telescope before... and all three perform well on the planets, particularly when you consider how portable they are. I have to say that for the planets the ETX-125 was in a class of its own among the group!
Overall - The ETX-60 and ETX-70 just don't cut it for me and unless you really have your heart set on computer control the money would better be spent elsewhere bearing in mind that we sell a 127mm (5") rich field OTA for less!
The ETX-90 is a little on the small side for this type of scope, but overall performs well and makes an excellent portable self contained set up. The ETX-105 and ETX-125 although less portable are the better choice in my view. The ETX-125 in particular is a pretty respectable amateur scope that manages to combine portability with performance. Overall very impressed with all three...
Of course it's horses for courses and very much a matter of personal choice - but if I were considering buying a new ETX then it would be one of the three Maksutov-Cassegrain scopes which I think are better value for money.
Must have accessories are the flexible focus adaptor mentioned earlier and a dew shield - without which these scopes can be unusable some nights.